And then there was Prague

I am writing two entries today... this and the entry above from "on the train to Prague"... be sure to check out both! Prague... what do I say... I guess first I,ll say the obvious. Amazingly brilliant architecture. I have never in my life seen such a display. Each building a work of art! That being said, it is also a HUGE city where hundreds of thousands of people rush about, cars rip around, shops burst with crystal and jewelry and puppets and regal clothing and a fortress of a castle dominates the skyline...larger than any other in the world... and me being me ... I say "how many people could that have fed" and "what,s the rush... when do you smell the roses" and "do you really NEED all that stuff" Prague started out with sticker shock. After travelling around the world on a shoestring, it was difficult only finding accomodation in what was more like a jail cell than a cosy room. We were told breakfast was included and then arrived at our flat to find out "it was just free, but now its not" so feeling somewhat screwed, we sucked it up and said "fine". On to walking the streets. Public transportation was incredibly difficult to figure out as you could only buy tickets to ride trains-busses-trams at some kiosks somewhere, and we never did figure it all out. Of course everything was in Czech, which I totally agree with, however, any other country visited at least had pictures-understandable diagrams... so we walked till our feet were blistered. We had read that taxis could rip you off so that wasn.t an option. We then went to change money at a Western Union affiliated money exchange which had rates posted all over the walls. The posted rates were the same rates as we saw in the bank, so we asked "is there commission?" She shook her head "no". We placed 100 US dollars on the counter and she replaced it with Czech money, but the amt was 25 dollars less than we understood. When we asked why, she pointed to a small side banner which said changing US to CZech was a much lower rate. We said " that is not what we understood, may we please have our money back" In ANY other country we,ve travelled to they would have returned our money... not here! She said "transaction complete... no change back" We begged and pleaded. Asked for the police. she said "call police". We waited in the street for about an hour. No Luck. We were told at the nearby post office that this type of misleading is frequent and there is always trouble there. We tried every kind way of explaining. I Ghandi,d her to death. Zip. When she wasn.t looking, I switched the numbers on her board so no one else could misunderstand and therefore get ripped off. Another time I will write more about the people I am trying so hard to understand. What does Years of oppression and occupation do to you??? So, we said... "enough big city in your face..." Got on a train for Bratislava, Slovakia where we are now. It took 4 hrs and at arrival we were wasted. We decided to suck it up and attempt to buy the 48 hour transit pass so our feet wouldn.t fall off. We read and asked and pointed and circled until we FINALLY found a kiosk in the main train station where you could buy the pass. We paid for the pass and hauled our weary butts on a tram which was only a kilometer from where we wanted to go downtown. Everyone we attempted to ask for information... saying excuse me and thankyou in Slovak, still acted annoyed, as many did in Prague. We finally got on the tram and sat down. We were immediately approached by 2 big bully guys demanding to see our passes. We produced them and the guys gestured !no! Waved hands as if our passes were bogus and pointed to demand the equivalent of about a hundred US dollars! Of course we didn§t speak the language, so we waved and pointed and gestured to our tickets saying "good" "new" I pointed to our watch saying "just bought" Well I just as well been speaking spanish... We stood to get off the tram and they physically blocked our way and forced us back to our seats. It was incredibly frightening and frustrating. Everyone else just stared ahead. We had no clue as to what the problem was. Finally he pointed to a machine where we were supposed to have punched the ticket the second we got on the tram. Well how should we have known that??? I tried to search for words in my dictionary. We said "we want police" they said "police you pay much more and wait many hours" /interesting they could speak that much! A young woman tried to say something on our behalf to no avail. We went on and on . I asked if it made him smile to make me suffer. I think he understood but didn.t give a squat. We argued on, again tried to get up and were blocked. Finally after about half an hour and many stops past our intended destination, one of the guys took my ticket, punched it in the machine right in front of me and got off. Talk about being bullied! So we got off, turned around on the tram back to where we needed to go and I overheard a man speaking English. I asked "excuse me... may I ask you something" I relayed our story and asked if this is typical. He said there can be huge fines if you don.t have your ticket punched even if you just plain old didn.t understand. He shook his had as if to say it was sad. We spoke a bit about our trip and he asked of we planned to stay in Slovakia, I said I came to buy a folk flute... fujara... but after our ordeal wasn§t sure how long we.d stay. I said "we met those guys, but then we met you, so who knows" I then asked what he did for work. He smiled and said "I work for the ministry of Foreign Affairs" We all got a good laugh... Said goodbye and ... that.s that 24 hours and 2 almost trips to the police. Makes me realize how easy it§s been all these years travelling where I speak Spanish! I.m exhausted!!! Nasdorovia... Hanulka